Green-building and sustainability consultant Jerry Yudelson, dubbed the "Godfather of Green" by Wired magazine, discusses lessons we can learn from the world's greenest buildings in his latest book, “The World's Greenest Buildings: Promise vs. Performance in Sustainable Design.” The five most valuable lessons, as summarized by Building Design + Construction magazine, are:

There is nothing magical or geographically specific about good design. In your next building project, you should be able to achieve the same energy and water use as LEED Platinum buildings around the world.

High-performance projects stand out because of the commitment of owners and their building teams to achieving "best-in-class" results. The projects Yudelson studied were LEED Platinum, which means they started with high-performance energy- and water-efficiency goals, along with a full suite of other green-building measures.

High-performance green design uses about the same energy everywhere in the world. Typically, once a good building envelope and efficient HVAC systems are in place, half of the remaining energy use comes from plug and process loads, along with lighting, which tend to be similar in most office buildings regardless of location, leaving regional differences to account for about 15 to 20 percent of heating/cooling loads.

Green buildings are no less beautiful than buildings with ordinary energy and water performance. One of the core tenets of Yudelson's book is that there is no inherent conflict between buildings with architectural merit and those with high-performance green characteristics and low-energy outcomes.

There are no standard definitions of building energy use and no good ways to "tease out" core energy use from special operations, such as on-site data centers. In Australia, Yudelson was surprised to find that building energy use typically is reported only for the base building, leaving out tenant loads in commercial offices, a practice that dramatically understates actual energy use.